Looking to save money on your cell phone plan? It’s not fair that cell phone providers take advantage of us and sell us overpriced phones and plans. We’re all tired of it, but unfortunately, we live in an age where we must be available 24/7.
We want to mention that just because one carrier is good in one area of the United States does not mean they will perform well in your area. We strongly suggest you ask around about the handset carrier you are considering to see how good they are in your neck of the woods. We’ve based the information in this article on overall performance in the U.S.
Please note that these are reviews of cell phone carriers. There are dozens of cell phone providers (resellers of cell phone carrier services) that may potentially offer more competitive plans, using the same networks. It all depends on your location, voice, text and data needs. Checkout our article comparing the best cell phone plans for the scoop.
- 5 Essentials From Your Phone Carrier
- Best Phone Carriers
- Other Phone Carrier Reviews
- The Best In Your Area
- Hotspot Plans
Before we get into the winners for best cell data plans and our full wireless phone plan comparison, we wanted to point out that there are five main things you’ll want to know before choosing your cell phone carrier:
- Data speeds
- Phone models available
- Customer service
What you find out about the carriers involving these five items could make it or break it for you so be sure to keep them in mind while you compare cell phone plans.
1. Coverage Is Of Paramount Importance
This is the most important consideration when it comes to choosing a carrier. Purchasing a phone and plan from a carrier that doesn’t have service in your area is worthless. Cell phone companies typically have those little coverage maps of the United States to show you the areas they cover. These are good places to start, but you should also do your own research.
Just because they say they cover your area doesn’t mean the service is great. Places you travel to often is another thing to keep in mind. If you spend a lot of your time traveling, you’ll want to have good coverage in those locations as well. One tip is to ask your neighbor and coworkers who their phone providers are and if they are pleased with the service.
2. Data Speeds Need To Be Lightning Fast
Do you plan on using your smartphone to access the internet, stream music and video, download apps and send emails? (Of course you are.) Then data speed will be important to you.
Currently, the fastest data speed available is 4G LTE so find out if the carrier offers it and where it is available. No one wants their phone to load at the pace of dial-up internet. Yikes, that dial-up sound still irritates me.
3. How To Choose A Plan?
Obviously you’re looking for the cheapest cell phone plans in your area with the best features. It’s important to find a plan that includes the functionality you want but doesn’t force you to eat Ramen Noodles for the rest of your life.
Most carriers offer a plan with unlimited talk and text but how much extra do they charge for media usage? Make sure you know how much your plan will cost you a month and how long you’re tied into your contract.
4. What Phone Do You Want?
If you’ve had your heart set on a specific phone make sure the carrier has it. U.S. Cellular didn’t get the iPhone until 5 years after it was released. This bummed out quite a few customers and some switched carriers because of it. So, if a new phone is coming out, be sure to ask if the carrier will be offering this hardware.
5. Why Customer Service Matters
This is a huge determining factor when you’re choosing any company over another. In case there is a problem, you want to make sure your issue is solved in a friendly, timely manner. No one wants to deal with long wait times or a jerk on the phone who won’t listen to you. Ask around your neighborhood to see what others’ experiences have been.
Below are the top three cell phone carriers according to the five main elements we laid out above.
Verizon is the largest cell phone carrier in the U.S., but does that make them the best? Verizon has a great reputation and has coverage even in many remote areas where “No Service” is the prominent message from most carriers. Their performance is outstanding and they have tons of phones to choose from. Their customer support team is also impressive.
However, Verizon does tend to be on the more expensive side. What you’re truly paying for is Verizon’s reliability. They know they’re the best so they charge an arm and a leg and do not offer to pay your early termination fees.
What Is Verizon’s Device Payment Program?
Verizon Device Payment, formerly called Verizon Edge, is a device payment program that spreads the cost of your device over a 24 month period. So if your device costs $599.99 it will cost you about $24.99/month for 24 months.
This doesn’t mean you’re locked into a two-year contract with Verizon though, so there are no early termination fees. Other perks of Verizon Edge are no activation fees and no finance charges.
It’s tough to beat T-Mobile’s price and performance; the trouble is they might not cover your area. T-Mobile got rid of their annual contracts so you can end your service whenever you want. They offer unlimited talk, text and data at a reasonable price.
Not so fast. Before going with T-Mobile, we suggest asking around to see how they perform in your local area.
AT&T is the second-largest cell phone provider in the United States and you may remember them as Cingular Wireless (the two companies merged a decade or so back). They have great coverage, but not quite as good as Verizon. F
rom our research, it looks like they could also improve customer service. So if you have a problem with AT&T billing or coverage, you may be frustrated with the resolution of it.
Just because these companies didn’t make our top 3 doesn’t mean they’re bad choices. These carriers may have great service in your area. Be sure to check them out and do the research before choosing your company.
If price is the main concern for you then Sprint may be your solution. Sprint got rid of its popular Framily plan and now offers its Unlimited Freedom plan, which still offers unlimited talk, text and data. It’s only $40 per line per month for a family of four.
After that, you can add up to ten lines for only $30 per line per month. Sprint gives you the best bang for your buck, but know that you’ll be sacrificing performance. So, if you’re okay with dropped calls now and then and a slower media network, then this may be the phone carrier for you.
U.S. Cellular recently expanded its national coverage and availability of 4G, making it a national player in the industry. Their coverage is sometimes better than the big four (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile), depending on your location. US Cellular’s rewards system allows customers to redeem new devices at a lower price.
Google Fi may take the number one spot as best cell phone carrier, but not yet. As of now, it’s only available for the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X and Nexus 6 smartphones. The national coverage is spotty. They promise fast speeds, more coverage and better connections to wifi.
The key difference between Google Fi and other phone carriers is that it changes between cellular networks, so depending on where you are you may be using a different network so you have the fastest 4G LTE at your location.
Finding the best phone carrier in your area doesn’t have to make you want to pull your hair out. Start your search by asking friends, family and neighbors how they like their service. Ask them how much they pay (if they don’t mind sharing) and what their plan includes as well as the performance.
If you’re close to them, ask if you can take a couple minutes to surf the web on their phone or download an app. First-hand experience with the service will always beat out hearsay. Then, when you’ve narrowed down your search, come back here and check out the pros and cons for each company to see which is the best fit for you and your needs.
Hopefully you found a good fit and are ready to make the switch. When shopping around for plans, you might also look into adding a wifi hotspot plan or use your phone as a hotspot (using your monthly data plan). Good service and coverage can have an impact on your phone life as well.
What do you love or hate about your cell phone plan?